In my last blog, I wrote about how they recently showed that gastric bypass surgery significantly increased your risk of developing alcoholism and substance abuse as well as suicide attempt and depression, much more so than merely restrictive procedures such as the lap-band.
Early on this was attributed to a psychological phenomena they called addiction transfer – theorizing that once a food addict could no longer eat they would “switch” to another substance in order to feel good. It seemed to make sense. Except to those of us who were experiencing it. We knew things were different. We felt “different”, “wrong”. If this were truly psychological, we should see similar rates of this transfer among all weight loss surgeries: duodenal switch, sleeve gastrectomy, lap-band, etc.
Many chemicals in the brain are responsible for that sense of well-being, your ability to feel happiness: serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, endorphins. But what about all the other nutrients your body must have in order for these chemicals to function properly? They all work together. Now what if those nutrients started to slowly diminish over time? Say over the next 12-14 months? And longer? How would you feel then?
What if you’ve suddenly achieved something you’ve yearned for, perhaps your entire life, and now find yourself having difficulty finding pleasure in things you know should find pleasure in? Trying on new clothes? Meeting new people? Peoples reaction to the new you? And what if that ability experience pleasure and joy just is not there. You know it should be and it isn’t. What if you start having trouble sleeping, maybe having anxiety, and you have no idea why?
And then you experience something and you feel “good” for the first time in a long time. Maybe that something is alcohol, which if you’ve had gastric bypass, even a little bit might feel really good where before it was no big deal. Or maybe your doctor writes you a prescription and you pop that pill and feel “good” again. Or it might be shopping, etc….. Or maybe you’re just one of those people that just tough it out and slog through and continue to feel awful. The brain is incredibly amazing at associating what you need to not feel awful and is very crafty and effective at convincing you to keep it from feeling like crud all the time.
But I’m convinced that if the “feel good” chemicals in the brain had not been so deteroriated by the many months and months of depletion, so many people would not have vulnerable in the first place to this scenario. There seems to be more understanding about how addiction works these days – the pleasure/reward pathways. What I am hoping the scientific community starts to explore is where the breakdown is occuring. How is this surgery creating the bio-chemical changes in our bodies that make a signficant population more vulnerable to addiction?
If this sounds at all familiar to your story, let me know.